tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey WHUT May 27, 2012 10:00am-10:30am EDT
>> our guest on "this is america" is dr. zbigniew brzezinski, former national security adviser to president jimmy carter, professor of american foreign policy at johns hopkins university, and author of the new york times best-seller, "strategic vision: america and the crisis of global power." thank you for coming over and visiting once again. >> once again is right. >> you are right around the corner from us now. >> we are neighbors. >> we are neighbors indeed. how has the world changed in the last 20, 25 years? >> fundamentally. fundamentally. the last 25 years have seen the end of a century-long conflict for domination of the world -- imperial germany, nazi germany,
soviet communism, and then american supremacy. in the last 20 years that supremacy has become more difficult and uncertain while the world has become more politically awakened. today all of humanity is politically active, and the balance of global power has shifted from the west to the east. so we live in a politically very, very different world. >> when people say american power is on the wane, is that real or imagined? >> it is both real, and, to some extent, deceptive. that is to say america is still developing. so we are still growing. our resources, gnp, military capability can increase, but what has changed is that others are closing in on us and have a faster rate of growth and are beginning to surpass us in some dimensions.
if current relative rates of growth continue, in the next 20 years or so, could surpass us in overall more decisive dimensions of power. >> so it is not so much we are declining as much as other countries are kind of coming up? >> think of it as two people, one 20 years older than the other. older person is walking forward, at one point walking very fast, and the other person was walking rather slowly as a baby. but then a young person becomes a grown-up, goes much faster. the older person is still moving forward, but it is a question of time until he is passed by. can we as a society re- accelerate? can we deal with our domestic problems and make ourselves meaningful to the world again
after a period of time where we antagonized much of the world and, worse, got ourselves into some rather unnecessary military adventures? >> we have paid a price, have we not, for the wars we are involved in right now? we still are involved in iraq and certainly in afghanistan. >> we have been involved in two wars recently, one of which was completely unnecessary, justified on the basis of false allegations, and that is the war in iraq. the war in afghanistan was necessary. they attacked us from afghanistan. we had to go in and clean out al qaeda. my view, as a person who was consulted, we had to go in and clear out al qaeda and we had to get out. let's not repeat the mistake the soviets made. instead, we went in, and president bush more or less declared he wants to make afghanistan into a modern
western-type democracy. that is where the error was. >> why do we think that our version of democracy can take hold in other countries? i mean, yes, we want human- rights, yes, we want freedom of the press, freedom of people to move around a bit. but what we have in america is very special, and we cannot impose that on other countries, can we? >> it is special and it is not special. it is special in the sense that what we have in america is an amalgam of different peoples who jointly become a nation and are very self-conscious in the fact. that is american exceptionalism. but europe is as democratic as we, and in some cases more intelligently so. what we do have in common with europeans is a concept of society and of the people that eventually over time may become the global reality.
what we do not have is a public understanding of the fact that to get there to that level is a long, difficult historical process and it cannot be imposed on other societies mechanically and quickly. >> so you cannot get to a democracy or a semblance of democracy overnight. cannot be done? >> also, not by foreign imposition. >> it has to come from within. one question before we go to a little break here. when we talk about the east and west and the shift of power from the west to the east, what do we really mean by the west, and what do we really mean by the east? >> in a sense it is simple. by the west, we mean that part of -- >> not just the united states? >> no, not just the united states. we in europe. the east means far east -- that is to say asia, southwest asia,
to the extent that one includes in the east india, pakistan, bangladesh. >> that is a big area with an awful lot of people. >> it is a lot of people. it is not such a huge area. it is roughly comparable with the west. the community is pretty large, too. how do you draw the divide? who is in it, out of it, and who is in between? >> you suggest a strategic vision in your book, a bit of education for me, and it is always interesting to see your take on the world, that the west down the road should really include russia and turkey. >> absolutely. they are in different ways increasingly partaking of the democratic tradition, and certainly the turks want to be part of europe and are practicing increasingly, and pervasively so, democracy, and
have been engaged in the last 100 years in trying to emulate the european model of the modern state and have been invited some 50 years ago by the europeans to join the european union. in the case of russia it is more ambivalent because russia sees itself as an empire. it certainly has not had a deep democratic tradition and does not have it yet. but there are increasing signals that russian society is changing underneath putin. i'm relatively confident that within a decade or so the democratic forces in russia will be dominant. that would make the west bigger, more vital, more resourceful, more interesting. >> and also keep a balance of power, huh? >> with asia. >> the title of the book is "strategic vision: america and the crisis of global power." zbigniew brzezinski.
back on the other side with "this is america." "this is america" is made possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. the singapore tourism board. there's something for everyone. singapore airlines, a great way to fly. poongsan corporation, forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation.
afo communications. and the rotondaro family trust. "zbig-nef," as opposed to "zbig-new." thank you for the -- >> it is phonetic. it is slavic, phonetic. >> i have not been too good with my languages. i welcome help from you. the middle east is in turmoil. at one point, you say that the e.u. is irrelevant and america is in some kind of decline. that is a pretty bleak picture. and we do not pay attention, unfortunately, to south america and latin america and africa. where are we in the world? >> 60, 70 years ago, who was dominant in the middle east? it was the british and french. they were -- they left or were
pushed out after world war ii. who replaced them? we did. with whom did we have the best relationships there in those years when we moved in? with iran, turkey, a faithful nato allies from the moment of nato's founding practically. with the saudi arabia, a source of oil and income for us. and egypt. how are our relations with all of these four today? in all cases they are not as good as they used to be. in some cases, they are still pretty good, particularly turkey and saudi retief. with egypt is mixed. and with iran is hostile. all of that reflects the global awakening going on in the middle east. and problems with the united states, among other issues the
issue of israel as a state. >> by 2014 most of our soldiers will be out of afghanistan, but that commitment is still there. the commitment is still there in iraq. is the premise that iran will have no nuclear weapons, is that a right policy to be pursuing? or will they someday just have nuclear weapons? >> it is the right policy to pursue, in part because they signed up for the non- proliferation treaty, which precludes them from having it. they signed that treaty, so in a sense, they are obliged. it is better for them not to have nuclear weapons because it will stimulate anxiety in the region, and maybe even more proliferation. but if someone says to me, therefore, to prevent them from having nuclear weapons we ought to go to war against them i say, no, that is not better. it is easy to start a war, but difficult to finish it.
a war with iran could ignite all of the middle east. we can cope with the threat of an iranian bomb, even though we do not want them to have its, by making a blanket guarantee of american protection for the security and independence of the states of the middle east if they are threatened by iran, excluding iran and certainly including israel. we have done this for japan and south korea these of the north korea. we have done this effect -- vis- à-vis north korea. we have done this for years vis- a-vis the soviet union, in most cases, more dangerous than iran. we can do it these of the iran for the middle east. >> for those -- vis-a-vis iran for the middle east. >> for those who are clamoring to go to war with iran to prevent them, you say no. >> it could destabilize the entire region. it is extremely costly for us.
a war with iran, just think, could we really extricate ourselves from afghanistan? they have a lot of panic ability into afghanistan, the iranians. they share a border -- they have a lot about availability into afghanistan, the iranians. they share a border. >> what do you think is going to happen with iraq and iran? >> it will take time to stabilize itself, iraq, because we have done a lot of damage to it. we kind of destroyed the fun doesn't -- fundamental sense of iraqi nationalism, and as a result, more specific ethnic and religious differences. >> could it be a federation of the kurds and the sunnis and shiites? >> in the ideal, yes. but in the meantime, there's so much tension and rivalry between the different elements that it could be very easily
destabilized. this is why an israeli war with iran would be so damaging to us, whatever that short-range benefits. >> turn our attention to home. we have horrific national debt. a financial system that is a disaster. this business of income and equity is at play right now. nothing gets done in washington because of the gridlock. and as you point out in the book, americans know very little about what is going on in the world. those are huge domestic problems. how do we even begin to tackle those? >> the problem is that you cannot begin by saying, i'm just going to tackle one of them. we have to tackle all of them. we have no choice. >> to regain our position? >> to maintain our momentum, to make sure that we are not
surpassed by others, to feel good about ourselves. also, to be effective on the world scene. public education is absolutely critical. we have an enormously ignorant public about the world. very little knowledge of global geography. very little knowledge of global history. a minimum understanding of global -- a minimal understanding of global complexities. how can we conduct our foreign policy when that foreign-policy is dependent on public support? it is easy for demagogues to appear. and what i particularly deplored is the print of level of any discussion of foreign policy in the debate between democrats and republicans. >> that probably all goes well
for the president in an election. >> if the public is ignorant, perhaps they will be receptive to that type of thing. >> i see. we need an american spirit of will to be learning, to know about the world. and we have dedicated our program to try to educate people of the world. >> that is right. and the question is, how many people on the national scale really watch programs and -- programs as thoughtful as yours? >> thank you. >> we have the best educational system in the world by far. they have no years. but it's less and less impressive as you go down the scale down to secondary education. and on top of it, the public has very little exposure to very informed news about the world. >> is that true about countries
around the world, or they much more knowledgeable than we are? >> the rub shoulders with their neighbors more. that provides an historical perspective and public education that is more significant in scale, then we, who are still a basically continental society that does not touch on any other major countries. >> canada and mexico might disagree with you. >> they are not major countries in terms of their not being a major global players. they have not had unpleasant relations with us recently. the mexicans have had. the one problem with the foreign policy is that it could reawaken mexican memory. think of the map of mexico, let's say, 150, 180 years ago,
and compare it to today. >> how would you change the immigration policy? >> the policy of just rounding people up in the streets and stuff like that in some states is just pouring gasoline on the embers. >> and the need us, i think. >> i am an immigrant. i sat in the white house and dealt with the highest issues of national policy. this is what is so wonderful about america. i did not change my name. and the country had to adjust to my keeping my name. and president on the first day of my being next door to him and having the right to walk into the oval office and the thai wanted to send out a note to everybody -- anytime i wanted to send out a note to everybody saying, learn how to spell and pronounced zbigniew brzezinski.
>> you say not only do we have to have the national will, but we also need the leadership. and that leadership really does fall to the president, doesn't it? >> it does, and it greatly depends on his historical instinct, his understanding of the world, and in difficult moments, on his determination to lead even if it is not politically expedient. >> what would be wrong with a series of presidential talks to the american people to educate them about our foreign policy or about the world? >> excellent. this is very much needed. he still has the bully pulpit. people will listen to him. >> he speaks -- he is so good. >> it is better to do it when you are not running, but are in office.
the president gave some terrific speeches before he became president and shortly thereafter. but then he got bogged down in domestic problems and he has not been able to continue that. >> what do you think china wants? >> status, influence. a reassertion of what it views as its normal historical role. this is a country that has been a state for 6000 years with occasional breakdowns, but still, continuity. it sees itself as a central power in the world. the challenge for us is how to make that compatible with our very important preponderant role in the world, assuming we can sustain it by domestic changes as well. that is the challenge we both face. i have to say, quite frankly, that to some extent, both they and we are delinquent in doing that in the sense that we are
letting ourselves, both of us, slide into increasing -- kind of acrimonious exchanges, which run the risk of demonizing each other. that would be very bad. >> they need a strong america, don't they? it serves their interests. >> and we need a strong and healthy china. it serves our interests. think what would happen if they decided to pull out of the dollars they have invested. >> absolutely. we have a mission. kind of summing up our mission with your strategic vision, putting those in parallel, what are our next steps? what has to be done? >> in a nutshell, i argue in the west, we in a consistent fashion try to draw turkey and russia into the west, provided they both democratize. turkey is doing it.
russia has yet to do it, but i think they will, too. in the far east, we ought to not get into wars in mainland wars. -- get involved in a land wars. we need to support the balance there. reconciled japan and china if we can. mitigate the conflicts between india and china if we can. have a partnership with the chinese, but without a self evident military edge to it so we do not get into a military rivalry. and try to operate on the assumption that they and we share a common interest of accommodation and will suffer very badly, each of us, if we get into real hostility. >> we have to accommodate them, in a way? >> absolutely. are we going to try to destroy them?
>> no, but you say what status. they want their role in the world. they also want to be an economic and military player, too. >> that is right, and it will require careful accommodation between each of us. military power, it is one-sided, can threaten the other. if they both try to expand military power, there can be clashing. do you know that we can -- that we patrolled by air and by sea right up to their territorial borders? how you think we would feel if they did this to west, in san francisco, for instance? we have to think about that. >> yes. if you were the national security adviser now -- and i hope from time to time people in the administration reach out to your thinking on these subjects -- what scares you most? what concerns you most? what would be your number one
priority? >> the number one issues are the long-range historical issues that bear upon our children and grandchildren. but immediately, is the middle east, the possibility of renewed conflict, the possibility of a regional conflict in which the crisis between israel and iran merge with the problems of afghanistan, the problems with syria, the instability in iraq. it confronts us with some potentially very damaging consequences for global economic well-being and for regional stability. >> will it last, do you think? >> blogger then we might wish. >> it might be months or years? >> years is a very long time these days, but he is certainly not as vulnerable as gaddafi. >> not as vulnerable.
>> no. >> this is a terrifically educational book. if the president cannot do it, maybe you could give some fireside chats about educating people about the world stage. >> you are doing this with your show. >> thank you. we call it "this is america visits the world," thank you could not take the gridlock. >> is also the world visit america. >> thank you. >> for information on my book "the chance of a lifetime" and all our programs, visit our website thisisamerica.net. "this is america" is made
possible by the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education. the american federation of teachers, a union of professionals. poongsan corp., forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation. carriveau communications. and the rotondaro family trust. and the rotondaro family trust.